Raw Thoughts- The Road To Wrestlemania Runs Through Chicago!
It's been a minute! Or a few weeks, if you want to be pedantic about it. Welcome back to my blog, welcome to Raw Is Robbo, and I thought this would be the ideal spot to pick things up again. So, why am I starting with Raw, and not the PPV event the day prior, Fastlane? Or even the UFC event from the day before, UFC 209? The main reason is that I like to be a positive person, and I don't have a whole lot positive to say about either of those two events.
To try and cater to the curious, and to really try to be positive, here's some quick hit thoughts on both shows:
-The prelims far outshone the main card. Alcantara's come behind win via leg lock over Becky Lynch's boyfriend, Luke Sanders, was highly impressive, although it was dwarfed by Darren Elkins' Hollywood-esque comeback head kick KO.
-Despite a crushing defeat for Mark Hunt, the Aussies repped well elsewhere, with Tyson Pedro crushing the the more experienced, undefeated going in Scotsman, Paul Craig, elbows and knees of doom. And Mr Dad Bod, Dan Kelly, picked up a huge upset in a gritty battle with former UFC champ Rashad Evans. Most notably, Kelly doesn't look like a drunk bloke at the pub when striking anymore, vastly improved boxing.
-The main event competitors left with their health fully intact (I know, I know)
-Nice to see WWE trying hard to keep Samoa Joe strong. They didn't fall into the trap of having Joe and Zayn have a competitive match to gain "this is awesome" chants. instead thinking longer term and letting Joe look dominant to set him up for future success.
-Neville and Jack Gallagher stole the show, a first for the Cruiserweights. Loved the headbutt spots. Side note- it's juvenile but I love Austin Aries' jokes on commentary about his impressive (video) package. Is it wrong to say Austin Aries' package is one of my favourite things about the cruiserweight division right now?
- Disappointed that they didn't use Owens to show the world that Goldberg can have a match longer than 2 minutes. I mean, I get that they may be using the idea of a longer form Goldberg match as a selling point for Mania, but there's a genuine concern in the fanbase right now about his ability to have a real match, especially when he's sweating profusely after two moves.
-Shit, I was supposed to be positive. Umm... I'm not entirely sure, but it appears that Goldberg has put on muscle mass since Survivor Series/Rumble. Helps his badass aura if nothing else.
Now, onto Raw! I love that it's in Chicago. They're going to get wanky with the CM Punk chants, but otherwise, they're traditionally smark crowds that get really invested in the show, which helps the presentation massively.
-And the place goes banana as we open up with Chris Jericho's music. He panders a bit too much but hell, they love him. Owens finally addresses the betrayal at the Festival of Friendship (one of my favourite angles of the last decade, if not ever), and we have Jericho vs. Owens set for the US Title at Wrestlemania. Wasting zero time setting up the biggest show of the year, very good.
-Side note, why are WWE's taglines for Wrestlemania so fucking lame in general? The Granddaddy of Them All was pretty bad, but the new one this year is "The Ultimate Thrill Ride". Ugh. To be fair, The Showcase of the Immortal was a good one.
-Opening segment tied into the Zayn/Joe feud, giving us Owens vs. Zayn to kick off the show, and Jericho vs. Joe (ooh!) as the main event. Owens runs through Zayn in a few minutes. As much as I like the logic in keeping top heels strong at both Fastlane and Raw, not sure I like it coming at Sami Zayn's expense. He's too good to just be a jobber to the stars. No problem with either result in isolation, but just wary of Zayn's positioning leading into Mania.
-Speaking of Zayn's Wrestlemania position, it's looking like no clusterfuck midcard title ladder match this year! Happy times! In the current climate, I'd rather see a more star-studded Andre Battle Royal and attempts to make that more memorable. The Mania ladder match has been lost in the shuffle a bit in recent years, sandwiched between the TLC and MITB PPVs.
-Damn tangents. Hey, it's Neville vs. Rich Swann for the Cruiserweight Championship! Two nights in a row we have Neville defending the belt, two nights in a row he smashes it. Excellent match, better than their Rumble effort (high praise, because that was a very good match in its own right). Chicago was the right crowd to try a long form cruiserweight match with too- they did pull those dumb CM Punk chants as the match started, but they got right behind the cruisers as the match developed.
-Post match, Neville disses Austin Aries, who snaps and sends him flying out of the ring to a huge reaction. Yasssssss. Now, let's see if Aries can perform up to the standards implied by his massive (video) package!
-Goldberg comes out to a mixed reaction- yeah, this Chicago crowd seems to like Bill well enough, but it seems they might have not been too happy with the 50 year old squashing indy darling Kevin Owens last night. Heyman interrupts to save Goldberg from ANOTHER round of Punk chants (seriously, I'm a big Punk fan, but these guys need to let it go). Enter The Beast, Brrrrrrrock Lesnarrrrrr!!! Heyman does a nice job setting the stage for the big Mania match, then Brock with the F5 on the Universal Champion! Let the record show that on Raw, Goldberg took his first bump since Wrestlemania XX in 2004. Crazy.
-Mildly interested in the tag team title situation. It appears that we might get The Club vs. Enzo & Cass vs. Cesaro & Sheamus at Wrestlemania. It feels to me with such a stacked Mania card that this could get pre-showed, but I'd like to see it get a chance on the main card, I feel like they could do something compelling.
-Akira Tozawa gets a good reaction in a quick cruiser showcase. Not just a Chi-town thing, Tozawa has done an admirable job getting over quickly with his athleticism and his innate charisma. It's infectious, I saw him in December live at NXT Sydney, and while he was relatively unknown, he had the whole crowd doing that "Ha!" chant.
-Ever since dropping the titles and clowning around with Titus, New Day have become fast forward material. They're hosting Mania, I'm supposed to care about ice-cream for some reason, and they squash the Shining Stars. Yawn.
-Yes! Bayley finally showing some remorse about the shady wins thanks to Sasha. Mick Foley tries to make Bayley vs. Sasha for Mania, Steph interrupts and makes Charlotte the Mania challenger instead, but allows Sasha an opportunity to get in (in the most bitchy way possible)... by fighting Bayley.
-Sasha beats Bayley with the Banks Statement, Wrestlemania will be a triple threat, Bayley vs. Sasha vs. Charlotte. Sounds great to me. Predicting a Sasha heel turn on Bayley before Mania, Bayley has to overcome the odds at Mania by beating both, and does so for the feel-good moment. Sasha vs. Bayley was pretty good, started a little slow, but picked up momentum nicely with some chain wrestling before seguing into more aggression then the Charlotte/Dana involvement. Enjoyable TV match.
-Nice to see Rollins reinforce that he will be at Mania. The only question is, do they just run some kind of angle on the show, or will they have some kind of impromptu match (maybe unsanctioned)? The answer probably depends on Rollins' legitimate health status- I think it must be decent for them to push ahead with the feud like they are.
-I chuckled at Triple H talking about his nicknames and how he never gave himself those names, other people did. Err... long time viewers know that's exactly what he did. HHH's character blurs the lines so much though that I don't know if he was in delusional heel mode, or actually stroking his own ego.
-Great discipline again regarding Joe. As much as I would have liked Samoa Joe and Chris Jericho to have the classic I strongly feel they're capable of, now is not the time. They've built Joe as a killer in a matter of weeks, and choking out Jericho outside the ring helps solidify it. Joe going for the post match attack makes him look sadistic, Jericho fighting back with the Codebreaker makes him look valiant and resilient. Big thumbs up all around there.
-The main event segment is Braun calling out Roman to continue their feud. This close to Wrestlemania though, you know there's more to it than that. Sure enough, Roman's music hits... but only for a moment, then Undertaker's gong strikes. Taker and Strowman have a staredown, the crowd chants "Holy Shit!" and I get a little worried. I like Strowman well enough, but I don't want him in a match with Taker. I've seen a lot of Undertaker vs. giant monster matches over the years, and they weren't great 10-20 years ago when Taker was healthier.
-Thankfully, Strowman retreats, off to plan for his entry into the Andre Battle Royal where he throws out Sami Zayn for the win (Mania prediction #2 in this post). Roman's music hits and he gets right in the face of the Deadman to say "This is my yard now". That act of insolence earns Reigns a chokeslam (which thankfully looked miles better than the ones Taker delivered at the Rumble). Raw signs off.
I really like Reigns vs. Undertaker as a Mania match. If we're not getting Cena vs. Taker- at least this year- this is the biggest, most meaningful match Taker can have at this stage. In some form, you know it's going to be Undertaker passing the torch to Reigns, which a good segment of people will be against, but I'm fine with it. In the past few months, Roman has moved away from the jokes and had a more serious badass presentation to be ready for this marquee match, and it suits him much better. Have him be that badass saying a few serious words, instead of "suffering succotash", and you've got a much brighter star. Between the ropes, he's delivered exceptionally well over the last couple of years, despite what the hive mind segment of the "IWC" would have you believe. Character and presentation was the main problem with Reigns as a singles star.
Raw was a fun show, aided by the hot crowd, but it was genuinely well booked too. Always amusing to see the same writing staff that produce some asinine content during the lull period of the year, show that they are more than capable for Mania season. Now, I'm massively looking forward to Smackdown tomorrow- AJ Styles vs, Randy Orton for the first time ever!
Lastly- my schedule is hectic and the only reason I could even write this tonight is because I'm feeling run down and I'm taking a day or so off work to recover my body. Full time work with Cerebral Palsy is very difficult, folks. But, I will try to get blogs written for the shows on the Road to Wrestlemania (even in condensed form) and will get to the UFC stuff too- on paper, this coming weekend's Belfort vs. Gastelum card looks great. Saying that, though, I have a ton of commitments, between work, and family and friends I need to catch up with, so it may be easier said than done. I love to write though and really enjoy this little project of sorts, and I enjoy all feedback.
Until next time, take care,